One Upon Time, i got hands on Ampera built by Vauxhall, Parented by General Motors (GM). In Essence, the Vold by Chrysler. Its the same thing. Parented by GM. same parents, same roots. Somewhat different designs (i prefer Volt Aesthetics)
Moving swiftly on. I will go through this bullet point listed. One event to the next, whatever made me “make the note” as i was testing the vehicle.
I have a feeling this may make its way into the “Fleet”, at my work, but read on…
It was the Ampera Electron (Top Trim. 35k). Big Beast. Nice cosy seats. Big Boot. All very noticeable right away.
Car tends to make good use of the electric charge first before 1.4L (43mpg avg) engine/generator purrs into life. As it should be. Thus all commuting (my journey) to-fro work – some near 30 miles a day is well accomodated. I found that despite the “full charge” delivering 29 miles (hopefully based on profiling) in real life – i DID have full climate control on and heating conveniently switched on as well. It Was 3c outside there
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Finally. It happened.
I got my hands on 24 hour NISSAN LEAF test drive.
Having been driving my very own electric Citroen cZero electric car, i know what to expect from another electric car, and that’s my reference point for comparison, whether i like the notion or not.
It will come with certain EV prejudices and expectations, and hope i can go through each one for you to decide for yourself. Hopefully this will be a somewhat different take no standard reviews, which are typically compared to a conventional-combustion vehicle model.
First Impressions count.
I’m impressed, its quite a size. Compared to my typical city-type mini czero, this one is a full featured 5 seater family car with room in the boot.
The Gears and take off.
Taken me a short while to figure that gearbox is a little unconventional “joystick”-type fob, which i found very fun to use, despite, once again, little unconventional look & feel.
The usual automatic driving transmission, as for all electric cars. Extra feature is “ECO” mode. Thats when you put it into drive mode, the second time. Essentially, as discovered later, this is more preferred driving mode, much aline “standard” drive mode on imiev / czero / ion models by mitsubishi. Not much to complain about beside tad response delay, for smoother usage.
Otherwise in “Plain” Drive mode, LEAF taken off with a near wheel-spin, full-on torque, and this did not just limit to the take-off. I experienced much the same when doing 30MPH and deciding to add a little more “juice” to overtake sluggish traffic on the dual carriageway. Impressive delivery of the torque, not something i associated with an electric vehicle, much like my own czero.
Again, this is all premium. Nice and soft “floating” over the speed-bumps. I think to be fair the analogy would be appropriate short of me repeation “this is better than czero” on every turn.
Lets put it this way, czero – is a VW UP basic model. Now dont diss it, it does its job. just dont expect too much from it. Thats sums up my electric car nicely.
LEAF on another hand is a more premium, refined Electric Car which has all the features you can expect from the higher-spec model; Electric Station Navigation option + SatNav, Traffic Updates, Media Centre, Rear-view Camera, Climate Control, etc, etc – None of which exist on czero / imiev / ion.
So, again LEAF is much like premium VW GOLF, if we stay with the same manufacturer for argument sake.
Again, with some 21k for czero / imiev / ion vs 26k for LEAF, at the point of writing this article on Dec 1 2012, the distinction is natural.
I enjoyed the full-on media system involvement with your driving. Yes this could be a little busy for the eye, but the “turn off climate control to get +7 miles” is very useful when you are looking for the charging point…
Emission feature would show you the LIVE electric power consumption statistics, from the point you pressing the accelerator to breaking and regenerating that energy, to on-board electronics and climate control power consumption. Very handy to play with when working to beat* the computer estimated “miles remaining”, in that range-anti-anxiety mission.
You know you expected me to go into this for at least a little bit.
Granted, i did get into work that same day with 4miles spare! I didnt get the car fully charged this morning. It was risky, i know. One thing is certain, – that computer estimating the mileage remaining – pretty damn accurate!
Battery on LEAF is bigger than on smaller czero / imiev – despite the fact delivering near-same real-life miles.
LEAF is bigger and better in every aspect that any or other models above-mentioned, but that comes at the cost – weight – in proportion to increased size, and on-board electronic tech gear. Its hungry for power as well.
With all that in consideration, the larger battery size to accomodate all that and what is essentially a 5-seater, can deliver the same as my humble czero (imiev).
Furthermore, Increased battery pack means one More thing – it costs longer*, yes longer to charge than my compared electric car.
For reference, czero charging at work, – now, im talking experience for now, not technical comparison, – takes some 7-8 hours to go into full. tried and tested. From 10%. (yes, i arrived into work on 7 miles remaining a number of times).
However with 4 miles on the clock, as i rolled into my charging bay (the same one) at work, “computer says” 13 hours to full charge. I didnt believe it. However my belief was irrelevant, as by the end of the 5hours work day, – i barely had 55% battery charge.
Doing the math, i gather that indeed it takes a tad longer to charge. Those reviews which suggested (13A socket btw is in examples as standard) LEAF takes about 8-10 hours to charge, – aka overnight – were not too far off.
Regardless, rapid charging points are now here, and i left work without stress and worry with my 55% charge “half tank fuel”, and headed into town for errands, – rapid charging this LEAF at that very same, previously mentioned South Mimms Rapid Charging unit supplied by ecotricity, partnered with Nissan.
All in all, yes, battery is larger, bigger than czero, but so what it takes a hour or so extra to get the full charge. Once you get used to the full tech and gear on board such as “show me nearest charging station” or rear view camera, the rest is suddenly no-as-so-important.
I really enjoyed taking that LEAF for a spin, much as I have enjoyed FLUENCE for that test drive at the Better Place.
They are bigger, better, more serious quality machines. I will have to enjoy the simplicity of my faithful (so far) czero, and appreciate “faster” charging time than the more premium models.
Price. Purchase or Lease, thats the question.
At £26k, LEAF is quite a piece of work.
Leasing electric cars is the best option forward. And there is a reason why. Unless you live within 10 miles of your longest trip in the village, and the 5 year battery warranty is all you care about – beside green credentials, – that the way to go.
However, technology will improve and the economies of scale will bring the prices down.
Meanwhile leasing is somewhat more premium as well, compared to my city czero / imiev. See my Cheapest LEASE category on the LEFT.
(Starting with LEAF @ £259 month and czero @ £159/month)
I don’t have to make these assumptions up. Nissan is bringing out another “new” LEAF in some 6 months time with more ECO* on-board energy consuming heating + devices. This results with some 14-20% energy saving for the car.
This, in turn, means you can drive further. See my other posts for more information.
So while you may be happy to own yours outright, don’t get me wrong, – i salute you sir, leasing would make more sense for time being. Residual value for any electric in another 3 years, from this date i personally estimate below 30%.
I could be called an optimist and pessimist at once, if you see what i mean. Its good to expect that many tech upgrades and advances for upcoming models and bring the price of NEW LEAFS down so much, that the cost of presently purchased outright cars will be expected to depreciate THAT much.
Decide for yourself.